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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Smoke 'Em (if you got 'em)

Tobacco advertising was a normal part of radio through 1971. After that, smoking became stigmatized. But your loyal Blogger here can remember a time when it would be assumed that any adult smokes. Cigarette cartons, which held 20 packages of 20 cigarettes, were a welcome gift for birthdays and Christmas.

On radio it was actually the most affluent of radio shows that were sponsored by cigarettes. Let's look at some of the brands commonly advertised on Old Time Radio.

And here's the important disclaimer: Your loyal Blogger (the LoyalTubist) is a militant nonsmoker himself. He doesn't condone smoking in any manner, nor the use of any product containing nicotine, except maybe as an insecticide.

AVALON - - Avalon cigarettes were introduced by the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company in 1933. They originally cost ten cents a package. Avalon's "secret ingredient" was Latakia, a Turkish tobacco grown in Syria and cured by the burning of camel dung. Avalon's advertising featured beautiful women. The first major natinal radio show to be sponsored by Avalon cigarettes was hosted by Red Foley and Red Skelton and made its debut in 1939. It went off the air after only one season. Soon after that, the production of Avalon cigarettes also ceased. "Don't forget your change, sir!"

FATIMA - - Fatima was the flagship brand of the Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company through the 1940s. Introduced in the 1870s, it was one of the first brands to be made on a cigarette machine. For many years, it was the most popular cigarette brand. The picture on the yellow package featured a veiled Turkish woman. In the 1940s, with the introduction of newer flagship brand Chesterfield, Fatima became a king size brand; the cigarettes were 10 millimeters longer. Fatima sponsored Dragnet and Tales of Fatima. By 1952, the shows formerly sponsored by Fatima were sponsored by Chesterfield. Fatima cigarettes left the market in 1980. Their replacement, L&M cigarettes, first appeared in 1955.

KOOL - - Kool cigarettes were first made by the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company in 1933. The target smokers were successful men. It was originally a regular cigarette without a filter but the tobacco had the addition of menthol to make the smoke "kool." The mascot for Kool cigarettes was a penguin named Willie. The Brown and Williamson folks thought so much of making youngsters smoke cigarettes when they became older that they actually made coloring books and comic books featuring Willie the penguin. Joe Camel never had anything like that! Kools are still being made, though now with a filter tip. Kool first sponsored the Jack Pearl program in 1935. (Kools are now made by R.J. Reynolds.)

CAMEL - - Camels were first made in 1913 by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. They became extremely popular during the First World War. Military personnel from the United States were the first to nickname the mascot on the package "Old Joe." In 1985, R.J. Reynolds came up with their own cartoon mascot, Joe Camel, who was really the same animal. Camels became the most popular American cigarette brand, whose smokers included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Edward R. Murrow. On radio, Camels sponsored many programs including those of Benny Goodman, Blondie and Dagwood, Abbott and Costello, Richard Diamond, Jimmy Durante, and many others. The Camel brand is still very popular among tobacco users. "I'd walk a mile for a Camel." In the late 1940s, many advertisements included the claim: MORE DOCTORS SMOKE CAMEL THAN ANY OTHER CIGARETTE.

LUCKY STRIKE - - The brand was first seen on packages of chewing tobacco in 1871. It was made by R.A. Patterson of Richmond, Virginia, which was acquired by the American Tobacco Company in 1905. The slogans "It's Toasted" (meaning its tobacco is dried in a smokehouse) and "L.S.M.F.T." (Lucky Strike means fine tobacco) were first used in magazines (and on packages) in 1917. In 1935, Lucky Strike began to sponsor the Hit Parade. The original color of the package was green. In 1942, because of rumors that what went into making green ink was needed for the war effort, the package was changed from green to white. Marketers realized that by changing the package from green to white that more women liked to smoke Luckies. So the packages were never changed back to green. For its last 12 years on the air, the Jack Benny program was sponsored by Lucky Strike. "Be happy. Go Lucky."

RALEIGH - - Raleigh was the flagship brand of the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company. It sponsored the Jack Pearl, Tommy Dorsey, and Red Skelton radio shows. In the 1950s, along with its menthol counterpart, Belair, Raleigh began putting coupons on its packages which could be redeemed to buy almost anything. If smoking is stigmatized in the early twentieth century, in the 1950s the coupons on Raleigh cigarettes helped many folks to smoke them. The coupons were often collected by churches and schools to purchase equipment they needed. By the way, this Raleigh advertisement shows Babe Ruth, the baseball player. Smoking was one of the factors that led to his death by cancer at the tender age of 54. Doctors have known that cancer and smoking were linked as early as 1912. These findings were reported to the public in 1952, 40 years later. Health warnings on cigarette packages would first appear twenty years after this. Reading some of the other life stories on this 'blog, one can see that smoking helped shorten the lives of several performers.

CHESTERFIELD - - Named after Chesterfield County, Virginia, this brand, made by Liggett and Myers, first appeared in 1913. On radio, the most popular gimmick Chesterfield did was use the initials, ABC, for "Always Buy Chesterfield." This would also be used for something else about the programs advertised, such as, "Arthur Godfrey, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby." For the last ten years of the Old Time Radio era, Chesterfield's most noted spokesman was George Fenneman. He could be heard on Dragnet and the Martin and Lewis shows. Chesterfield was one of the last brands to add a filter to its cigarettes. In fact there was an advertisement in the late 1960s which declared that "Chesterfield people don't need filters because the cigarettes are so mild." Chesterfield was the brand of choice of the LoyalTubist's father.

OLD GOLD - - Introduced in the 1920s, Old Gold sponsored Harold Lloyd's program in the 1940s. Actress Mary Tyler Moore made her television debut as a dancing cigarette package on the Richard Diamond TV show. Dick Powell, who played Richard Diamond on both radio and television, would die from smoking cigarettes at the same age as your loyal Blogger is while he is writing this 'Blog. The radio show was sponsored by Camel. Old Gold's most infamous slogan was, "Not a cough in the carton" (referring to a carton of cigarette packages). Old Gold would become a filter only cigarette by the late 1960s. This was one of the brands which was offered to military personnel in C-Rations and K-Rations during World War II.

The Zippo lighter was invented in 1932 by George Blaisdell in Bradford, Pennsylvania. During World War II, they were only available to military personnel.

PHILIP MORRIS - - Philip Morris is one of the oldest brands in tobacco. In 1847, Philip Morris began selling ready made cigarettes at his shop in London, England. In 1881, Philip Morris & Co. Ltd. was established in England. Another Philip Morris company was set up in New York in 1902. Eventually, the English company was acquired by the American company. In radio, Philip Morris sponsored many radio programs. Its spokesman was Johnny Roventini (1910-98), a 4 foot tall (122 cm) bellboy from New York City who would shout out, "Call for Philip Morris!" The corporate theme music was the "On the Trail" movement from the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe (1892-1972), who was best known as the man who orchestrated George Gershwin's (1898-1936) Rhapsody in Blue. (Philip Morris cigarettes were renamed "Commander" cigarettes in 1989.) Philip Morris had advertising in the late 1950s and early 1940s admonishing smokers to "believe in yourself." Philip Morris was the sponsor of I Love Lucy on both television and radio (the radio version is believed to be just a pilot, although the loyal Blogger has actually heard from people who said they heard the show on the radio).


Anthony said...

Wasn't P. Lorrilord the manufacturer of Old Gold cigarettes?

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